How long do you wait in line to checkout at the supermarket?

Well, if you live in DC, you wait the longest – over 8 minutes on average. 

Best solution isn’t to pick moving lines  … it’s to move to St. Louis.

Here are the numbers.  Below are some ‘so what’ points.

 [ Average wait times in grocery-store lines, in minutes]

Excerpted from WSJ,  Justice — Wait for It — on the Checkout Line, Aug 19, 2009 

While Americans spend relatively little time in queues, a wait they perceive as too long or unjust could curtail repeat purchases.

The simplest way to reduce wait time is also the most expensive: adding more employees.

Instead, some retailers and fast-food restaurants have gone the way of banks and airports, shuttling customers into a single line where the person in front goes to the next open cash register.

Other retailers are dabbling in technological upgrades to improve the waiting experience with updates on wait times or pleasant distractions.

But the primary goal often isn’t a reduction in wait time.  Instead, retailers are appealing to consumers’ sense of justice by ensuring no one is served after another customer who arrives later.

“Supermarkets are one of the last major service industries in the country where you don’t have single, serpentine lines.”

Waiting research has attempted to quantify how qualitative factors can affect shoppers’ estimates of time in line and their reaction to that time. Customers overestimate their wait times by 23% to 50%.

When it comes to customer satisfaction, time isn’t of the essence; fairness is. Many studies have shown how frustrating it is for customers to see others get served faster.

Supermarket lines may not be the longest, just the most loathed. Two years ago, in 20 out of 25 major U.S. cities, the average wait time at grocery stores was under five minutes.

Many supermarkets address that tension with express lanes for shoppers with few items, so that they don’t have to wait for lengthy transactions. In other words, supermarkets are thereby treating their best customers – who buy the most —  the worst.

Nearly half of supermarkets have some form of self-checkout. But these systems are usually outnumbered by traditional cash registers and often slowed by customers’ unfamiliarity with barcode scanning.

Full article :
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125063608198641491.html

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